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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Hexagon - Aladdin

10th December 2011 to 8th January 2012.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

You can't beat old-fashioned panto

Even if it means putting up with those howling jokes...

Aladdin, at The Hexagon, Reading, until January 8

It was all there. The brightly-coloured set, Steve Varnon positively dripping evil as Abanazar and collecting hisses and boos from the first moment on stage. Then there was Kerry Newell as Aladdin, principal boy tunic and wide beaming smile intact, dancing with the junior chorus as the band played a popular song and Anne Charleston as The Empress of China made her appearance.

Soon the lights were flashing brightly and we saw Jolyon Dixon in an outrageously-coloured costume as Widow Twankey and Justin Fletcher, taking time out from Children's television, as Wishee Washee, all trooping down the Street of a Thousand Goldfish - yes, really - in old Peking, and starting up with the familiar panto jokes. "Now you finish." "No, me Chinese." Well, they don't improve over the years. And indeed why should they? This is what the children and the big children that bring them along, come to see and enjoy over and over and this very slick, well-paced production had them laughing and calling out and screaming from beginning to end.

Everything was over the top, from the sneering, dirty-laughing Abanazar, to the sprightly Genie of the Lamp, Stewart Charlesworth. Arina Li was a glamorous Princess, Emma Quintin played the always-ready-to-help Spirit of the Ring and Cheryl Neal was So-Shi.

And believe me, when I say that this was an old-fashioned pantomime and that is meant solely as a compliment. This production had pace, wit, colour, glamour, music and flashing lights in abundance and you can't do much better than that.

The writers Iain Lauchlan and Will Brenton got the mix just right, with fast-moving action and plenty of ad libs and jokes, and Steve Boden's direction was effective but unobtrusive; the mark of a well directed show.

Choreographer Adrian Edmeads and indeed all of the backstage crew deserve a special, collective pat on the back. Imagine Theatre had a success last year with Sleeping Beauty and it looks as if they have another surefire winner this year.

Elsie Beth said: "I liked the bit where Wishee Washee tried to put the bucket of soap over his mum and it ended up on him. I liked Aladdin best but thought the funniest was Aladdin's mum because she wore such funny clothes. It was good fun altogether."

Lily, just four, liked the Princess best but she also enjoyed the soap and bucket routine very much. If you haven't taken the little ones to a pantomime yet, you would be very hard pressed to find anything better than this in the region.